Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Election Results and the Political Outlook
MATSUYAMA Yukio  / Professor Emeritus of Kyoritsu Women's University

December 16, 2003

Following general elections that took place on November 9, Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro proclaimed victory, saying: "The coalition government has secured an absolute majority, and I consider this an endorsement of our Cabinet by the Japanese people." However, he was far from triumphant in his demeanor. In contrast to the high popularity ratings of the Koizumi government, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) itself faced unexpected difficulty in capturing seats and managed to preserve the status quo only by enlisting legislators without party affiliations once elections were over.

The LDP has clearly passed its 'best before' date, and there was a pronounced weakening in its base of support nationwide, not only in the big cities but in local regions as well. The consensus view is that 30 or 40 LDP representatives would have failed to win their seats, had coalition partner Komeito Party not offered its support in the single-seat districts.

On the other hand, while the Democratic Party celebrated its gain of 40 new seats as a "major advance," there was no sign of euphoria on the face of party leader Kan Naoto. With only 177 of the 480 parliamentary seats, it would be premature to describe the situation as the "eve of seizing power."

The political outlook remains extremely fluid, but the following points are becoming clear. First of all, the election results delivered a considerable blow to Prime Minister Koizumi, who had always emphasized "nationwide popularity" over "factional politics." This would unavoidably cast a shadow over his leadership, making party management even more difficult than before.

The Komeito Party did the LDP a great favor by offering its cooperation in the election, securing a powerful casting vote for this small party with only 34 seats.

The Democratic Party meanwhile captured more votes through proportional representation than the LDP, and is clearly on the crest of a rising wave. It played a particularly important role in transforming the personality-centered, profit-seeking nature of past elections into one focused on policy, by aiming for a two-party political system. Nevertheless, the party is a composite team made up of members who originally belonged to parties ranging from the LDP to the Socialist Party, and has yet to form a consensus on issues such as Constitutional reform and cooperation with the United States. The party will need to hastily adjust their internal policies in time for the Upper House elections scheduled for summer.

Meanwhile, the trend towards a two-party system has caused a dramatic decline in the number of seats for the Communist Party - from 20 to 9 - and the Socialist Party - from 8 to 6. The weakening of these two parties that were major defenders of the Constitution and the rapid increase in the number of reformists within both the LDP and the Democratic Party have given rise to the possibility that Constitutional reform will soon be on the political agenda.

We are currently faced with mounting internal and external issues not limited to Constitutional reform, such as overcoming the economic slump and setting a limit to deploying the Self Defense Forces in Iraq. Yet voter turnout remained below 60% - the second-lowest level in the post-World War II era. This must be connected in some way to the lack of attractive candidates in politics today - in other words, promising individuals are not standing for office. The current stagnation in Japanese politics is perhaps symbolized by the fact that roughly 30% of all legislators are second- or third-generation politicians.

The writer is Professor Emeritus of Kyoritsu Women's University and former Editorial Writer of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

松山幸雄 / 共立女子大名誉教授

2003年 12月 16日
十一月九日に行われた総選挙のあと、自民党の小泉首相は「与党連立政権が絶対安定多数を確保したのだから、われわれの内閣は、国民の信任を得たことになると思う」と勝利宣言を出した。しかしその態度はtriumphant とはとても言い難かった。各種世論調査における小泉内閣の高支持率と裏腹に、自民党自体の議席が意外に伸びず、選挙後無所属議員を加えてやっと現状を維持した程度だったからである。









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Election Results and the Political Outlook